No child should go hungry. No mother should have to bury her child because of hunger.
I applaud the work of the African Child Policy Forum. My little research shows that it has been doing stellar work over the years. Importantly also, it has never ceased challenging our conscience and values as a society. It has never been shy about taking our governments to task as to whether they are complying with their obligations to Put Children First. To its credit, it has never shirked from raising sensitive issues. I am glad there are such an African institution and an African voice; that we Africans are speaking for ourselves and to each other; and, that we own our responsibility.
I had the privilege to have a sneak preview of ACPF’s report on child hunger. This is a short and uncompromising report on the state of child hunger in Africa. It is damning and challenging. It deals with a problem of enormous significance here in Ethiopia. We are of course trying to address the problem through a multi-pronged approach, combining different policy instruments and programmatic interventions. But the problem remains huge and complex.
There are many important issues the ACPF report raises. But I want to take a modest approach and perspective in my conversation with you. I would like to engage with you not as a President but as a fellow human being.
I would like to share three important observations; Let’s begin with the most important –the one that connects us as human beings, as a woman, as a mother. That millions should go hungry and die of hunger is simply morally unacceptable. In fact, I would go further. I do not think that, in this case, Statistics per se should matter –whether the real numbers are higher or lower, etc.
As a human being, I say simply and sincerely that: No child should go hungry. As a mother I would say, no mother should have to bury her child because of hunger. Period. For the mother who sees her child die because of lack of food, the economics of resource scarcity is irrelevant; and the politics of public policy does not matter. They do not help a grieving mother. She has lost her child because there is no food; worse, because no one cares. Everyone has failed her – society has failed her; the state has failed her. Child hunger is a moral challenge to us all.
Moreover, as a citizen, I find that hunger is not just a moral issue but also a developmental, I would even say, political issue in the larger sense of the word. ACPF’s report shows the huge personal, social and economic costs of hunger. It has massive implications for society and for our future economic wellbeing. As a citizen, I, or, all of us should ask ourselves: Are we doing enough as a society or as a community of shared citizenship to ensure that no child goes hungry?
No society or political order is perfect. But we have the duty or obligation to ensure that we are moving toward a less imperfect or to a more perfect order for all citizens-adults and children alike.
Finally, one last points what is our role as world citizens? Let me quote the famous words of a famous 17th century poet you are all familiar with or can easily relate to. It is from John Donne’s world-famous poem/verse “No Man is an Island.” These are his words: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
So whether the death or the killing happens to Africans or in Africa, it should not matter. It is about all of us, whoever we are and wherever we come from. In Africa, we like to talk about Ubuntu-I am because You are. And so, I would like to anchor our conversation to our common sense of humanity and world citizenship. Hence my appeal to our international partners to look at the sanctity of human life as a duty of all global citizens and thus deserving priority in international cooperation. I would like to conclude by sharing my hopes and aspirations–and they are big. In this regard, let me paraphrase Bernard Shaw: “Some people seething as they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were, and ask, Why not?”
Yes, I say, Why Not? I do certainly appreciate that dealing with massive social and economic issues is no easy task. They often are politically complex and economically daunting. I believe in the capacity of the human spirit and the human will to reach the stars. I, therefore, dream of an Ethiopia, of an Africa that is free of hunger, of a peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia and Africa, of a world where no mother must bury her child because of lack of food or, even worse, because no one cares. That is what I dream.
I, therefore, ask you all to join me in dreaming big and making that dream happen.
by H.E. Mrs Sahle-Work Zewde,
President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.